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Belliotti has new book released discussing Machiavelli as statesman
Friday, September 04, 2015

Belliotti has new book released discussing Machiavelli as statesman

Dr. Raymond Angelo Belliotti

Distinguished Teaching Professor Raymond Angelo Belliotti of the Department of Philosophy interprets and critically examines the role of politicians in, “Machiavelli’s Secret: The Soul of The Statesman."

The book, Dr. Belliotti’s 17th, was published by SUNY Press.


Belliotti remarked that “Military and political leaders, acting on our behalf and in our name, sometimes act in ways that are incontestably condemned by the imperatives of impersonal morality, but under certain circumstances such acts prevent great harms or achieve great goods for limited constituencies to whom these agents owe special duties. In politics and elsewhere, we sense at times that a particular action is the best course to pursue, but that the efforts of our leaders nevertheless involve using means that are typically wrong. Statesmen must often transgress clear, paramount moral principles and are rightly required to do so by the demands of their positions. The paradox of being morally required by the special duties grounded in personal relationships to violate moral standards arising from impersonal morality seems irresolvable and deeply unsatisfying. This work, among other things, penetrates and unravels this paradox.”

He added that Machiavelli tells us that political statesmen must love their country more than their own souls. Political leaders must often transgress clear moral principles, using means that are typically wrong, even horrifying. What sort of inner life does a leader who “uses evil well” experience and endure? The conventional view held by most scholars is that a Machiavellian statesman lacks any “inwardness” because Machiavelli did not delve into the state of mind one might find in a politician with “dirty hands.” While such leaders would bask in their glory, the argument goes, people can only wonder at the condition of the souls that they have presumably risked in fulfilling their political duties. In “Machiavelli’s Secret,” Belliotti uncovers a range of clues in Machiavelli’s writings that, when pieced together, reveal that Machiavellian heroes most certainly have “inwardness” and are surely deeply affected by the evil means they must sometimes employ. Belliotti not only reveals the nature of this internal condition, but also provides a springboard for the possibility of Machiavelli’s ideal statesmen.

Philosopher John Draeger, who evaluated the work, commented that “Belliotti identifies an important cluster of philosophical problems, including the extent to which a statesman should bend the moral rules for the collective good and what implications such decisions might have for the statesman. Moreover, using Machiavelli to tie together this discussion both illustrates the timeless quality of the problem and provides a fresh way of thinking about the problem. The book nicely demonstrates the ways that contemporary philosophers can benefit from knowing more about history and also how historians can make use of contemporary discussions.”

Belliotti’s other books address issues in jurisprudence, sexual ethics, ethnic identity, Nietzsche, the meaning of life, human happiness, philosophy and baseball, Machiavelli, Roman philosophy, posthumous harm, why philosophy matters, Dante, Shakespeare and Jesus.

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